This is the second, and final, personal post in memoriam of my friend, Joe Westom.
See the following link to read the first post – the password is Joe
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Below is a transcript of the Eulogy read by Fer O’Neil, at the request of the Westom family, 21 June 2013. It was written with the intent to be orally presented; therefore, non-standard punctuation and formatting was used for readability.
“That we may mark with wonder and chaste dread. At hour of noon, when, with our limbs outspread lazily in the whispering grass, we lie to gaze out fully upon the windy sky-Far, far away, and kindly, friend with friend to talk the old, old talk that has no end, roaming-without a name-without a chart the unknown garden of another’s heart.” –C.S. Lewis
I am Fer O’Neil for those who don’t know me. I am a friend of Joe’s.
I was asked by the Westom family to offer a few words. I can only speak as his friend, and out of respect for Joe’s family, I’m not going to dwell on the background of his life. I am here to tell his story as a friend.
As his friends gather, I am honored to lead this goodbye.
So, I invite you to listen as Joe’s friends, through me, pay tribute to his life and what he meant to all of us.
Sometimes we’ll be reminded of his life with laughter, and sometimes with tears, and sometimes by things that are and will forever remain unspoken; moments and memories between you and Joe, too precious to share with the world. I encourage all of us to cling to these memories, because they will help and comfort us throughout our lives, as we remember Joe, and what he taught us about love and friendship.
Joe was a Rare Friend
There are a small, very rare, few people in this world who are not defined by their jobs, what schools they went to, what car they drive — I’ve only met a few in my life — and Joe is one. He seemed unaffected by the vicissitudes of the world. He showed us the great pleasure one can derive from the simple pleasures in life. Looking through the pictures everyone is posting on Facebook, we see images of Joe’s life spent with family and friends. He showed us something we can all emulate—the importance of the things we often take for granted. But this didn’t prevent him from working hard all his life — all his friends from his jobs who are here and who have shown their support and love is a testament to his hard work and the respect they have for him and the impression he makes on all those who know him.
Joe is rare, as evidenced by how others see him and how his friends value him —reliability, faithfulness, genuine— these are just words, and are actually qualities that few people hold. But Joe transcends these things, and shows us what these words mean. Joe is someone who transcended the worldly things that others use to rate and measure their lives on. No, we cannot measure Joe using worldly measures.
What is WWB?
Next I want to talk about WWB. I’m sorry but this tribute would be incomplete if I didn’t try to convey what this term, this idea, really means.
WWB started by a few boys in a high school locker room. These boys were friends but recognized that what they shared among them, what the friendship meant, and how they felt toward on another, was something so much more than the word “friend” could convey.
What is it then? Love. But love isn’t an idea or word that could be freely or easily expressed by high school wrestling boys in the locker room — so WWB became a metaphysical representation of this thing they shared and couldn’t define, and became their means for communicating their love to one another.
Joe was a founding member of WWB, but through the years others have been admitted, and this network of love continued to grow. And Joe is the centerpiece that holds it all together.
You see, I have a secret for you, WWB isn’t an exclusive club — anyone can join — you just have to know someone who is in it and share your love with them. You are all members through Joe. As we grow older and share our love with others — husbands, wives, children — we expand this network and expand this idea of what it means to be a friend.
WWB would literally not exist if not for Joe. He is the one who connects all the disparate groups to create the whole, and we witness that here today.
We Will Remember Joe
I think Joe taught us all a lot of things, and especially for most of us here today, he taught us what it means to love, and what it is to be a true friend.
I can still remember the feeling I got when I received the call from Alex — until then I never realized how grief and sadness can masquerade as fear — the same empty, tight feeling in your stomach, the shortness of breath as you wait to hear what happened, the dry mouth [paraphrasing C.S. Lewis]. But grief and sadness also have a way of making you feel numb.
Like all of you, Joe isn’t someone whose absence I will “get over.” Part of this comes from my fear of how my memories of Joe might fade, or become idealized versions of the truth. But these memories, and what we learned from Joe, are what we can share with those we love, and to continue to expand his network of love.
Joe’s family said it best: he was a son, a brother, an uncle, and a friend — and his life was cut short so we’ll never get to meet “Joe the husband” or “Joe the father” — I was really looking forward to meeting that guy…
So I will try to share the love that I learned from Joe with my family, and friends, and this can be our tribute to a great person, and a truly remarkable friend.
Using words from C.S. Lewis, I’ll end by saying,
“I had been so far from thinking such a friend possible.”
Fer O’Neil and the WWB Crew — you know who you are, and more importantly, so does Joe…
Delivered 21 June 2013